Fire claims woman's life
by Lenny Roberts
A 74-year-old Oak View woman died Monday afternoon as the
result of a fire at her Grapevine Road home.
Mary Mortensen was pronounced dead on arrival at the Ojai Valley
Community Hospital of asphyxia by inhalation of smoke and carbon
monoxide, according to Senior Deputy Medical Examiner James Baroni.
Fire investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fire,
which was reported by neighbors at 5:07 p.m.
County Fire Public Information Officer Joe Luna said arriving
firefighters from Oak View Station 23 reported that the single-story
residence was charged with smoke, but no flames were visible.
Mortensen was in full arrest when she was removed from the house
by firefighters. Ojai Life Line paramedics, after unsuccessful
attempts to resuscitate her on-scene, continued lifesaving measures
as they transported her to the hospital.
Rob Jones, a tenant who lives two doors away on Mortensen's property
at 63 Grapevine Road, said he and another tenant tried to enter
the burning home after repeatedly calling out her name to no
avail. The other man, Jones said, is a pest exterminator, and
put on a respirator as he entered the house.
"The other tenant, I don't know his name, and I put the
fire out with a garden hose, but there was a lot of smoke left.
We couldn't get her out because of it," he said, explaining
that the neighbor's pesticide respirator failed to filter out
the smoke like a firefighter's respirator.
Chester Perry, another neighbor, saw the smoke from his back
yard and heard all the noise of arriving rescue workers. He described
Mortensen as "a real nice lady who lived in the house for
a very long time."
A total of six engine companies from all area stations had the
fire under control at 5:41 p.m. Although neighbors suspected
that the fire may have started in either the fireplace or possibly
a wood-burning stove, Luna said the cause remains under investigation,
but is not of suspicious nature.
The structure and its contents, Luna added, sustained less that
$10,000 in damage.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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ROB JONES, in the blue shirt, leaves after he and a another man
tried to save the life of his landlady, Mary Mortensen.